HWD Board puts screws to rate payers again

One week after HWD General Manager Carlos Lugo stood before the La Mesa City Council professing how the HWD has done all things right about reducing costs in an attempt to keep water rates from increasing even further, the back room deals are back.

 The HWD Board, General Manager and Employees have conspired to bypass the regular process of re-negotiating the MOU which wasn’t up until 2013   In exchange, the rate payers get to watch the payroll costs continue to balloon out of control.

 Last year when myself and others stood before the board pleading for them to make some significant change to pensions and benefits, we were treated to rhetoric from then President DeAna Verbeke who stated and I quote, “we need to see what direction the governor will take on these issues”.  Forget about the direction many cities and agencies had already taken to change the way business was done making employees pay their full share of employee contributions and the San Diego Tax Payers Association analysis of pension and benefit programs showing HWD on the wrong end of change. 

 At the previous MOU that was supposed to last two years, rather than create a second tier pension for new employees, making employees pay their full share of contributions, and pay a fair share of employee medical premiums, the employees received a cost of living raise (3.1% last year) to pay for their 2% pension contribution on top of an average salary of over $75,000 per employee.  This cost of living raise continues to next year and is proposed to continue to the following two years of the extension of the current MOU while the employees pay an additional 2% towards “their” own pension share.  No change to employee benefits which includes 24 days of paid time off for the first 5 years of employment, 14 vacation days, 100% paid medical for the employee and their dependents among other benefits not seen in the private sector.

 All this while they plan on raising our water rates 4.7% August 2012.  I have an idea.  Why doesn’t the HWD Board hold a town Hall meeting and see how the rate payers feel about this proposed MOU extension before they vote on it.  Maybe these types of MOUs should be voted on by the rate payers rather than the Board since they can’t seem to have our best interest at heart when we put them in place.  Kathleen Hedberg is the only Board member trying to hold the line which is why we need to vote out Richard Smith, Chuck Muse and John Linden.

 The biggest question we all want to know which we never will since all this is happening in closed session is whose brilliant idea was it to extend the MOU at this early date and why the Board chose to even entertain this idea if it wasn’t theirs?  The other thing we must all recognize is the Board gets the same great medical benefits the employees do so why not extend now?

 What the Board will tell you is that we have the lowest water rates among the various agencies and they are doing a great job but what they won’t tell you is how they are doing nothing to stem the costs of the water due to higher payroll costs of the agencies we buy water from and that members of the HWD also sit on the Board of those agencies.

 The HWD Board meets at 2 pm (nice start time HWD) this Wednesday to vote on this proposal so it is our duty to show up and protest this outrageous misuse of the public trust our so called representatives are displaying to us, the rate payers who pay their salaries and benefits.

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Tags: Helix Water District, La Mesa Today, La Mesa news

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Comment by Lisa Moore on August 2, 2012 at 9:31am

Thanks David....now I will be able to understand your earlier comments more.

Comment by David Smyle on August 1, 2012 at 10:35pm

Memorandum of Understanding.  Basically, a union type of agreement. Since the employees are not union, they do this type of agreement to keep them from forming an actual union so the employees basically get the benefits of a union without having to pay union dues and the City benefits somewhat in that I don't believe the employees can strike and do some of the other union activities.  Many cities do the same thing like La Mesa and Lemon Grove among others.  For all intents and purposes, it is a union contract.

Comment by Lisa Moore on August 1, 2012 at 5:34pm

Sorry David.....what is the MOU? 

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